Posted by Eileen Astels
One of the reasons I love writing dialogue is because I as the writer have time to ponder great one-liners for my characters. In real life, there are many times I walk away from a conversation and stomp my foot thinking, oh, why didn't I think to say such'n'such instead? What a lost opportunity. Then I sigh and mope for a little longer wishing time could be reversed for just a little bit.
Well, fellow writers, our characters never need mess up their words again, unless of course we want them to [wink wink-- we can be so devious, can't we.] Revisions are on our character's side, so next time you're in edit mode with your story, take a good look at your dialogue and ask yourself these four questions about each line. (Yes, I said each line. There are no shortcuts to good writing.)
These questions come courtesy of James N. Frey via How to Write A Damn Good Novel.
- Is it in conflict?
- Is it trite?
- Can it be said better indirectly?
- Is the line as clever and colorful as it can be?
But remember, as you answer these four questions you must stay true to who your character is. Make sure that the dialogue, as clever and colorful as it may be, reveals who the character is, and isn't something just dropped in to liven the exchange.
I leave you with one more quote by James N. Frey, "Direct dialogue expresses exactly what is on the character's mind with no attempt on the part of the character to demur, use subterfuge, lie, be witty, and so on. Fine dialogue expresses the will of the character indirectly."
And it is much more fun to "express the will of a character indirectly", and your readers will thank you for the extra effort too. But like everything in life, the punch comes in moderation. Not all dialogue lends itself to indirect dialogue, but you can still work on the conflict, triteness, cleverness, and colourfulness for those lines too. The point of these questions is to check that each line is exactly what you want it to be, and to know why.
Any great indirect exchanges out there you'd like to share? We could learn from each other.
Surrendering to Him,